The following article is a paid collaboration with Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Pittsburgh city life, and discover a less-traveled part of the country on the Upper Mon Water Trail.
The Monongahela River (or "the Mon," as locals call it) is a 130 mile-long, south-to-north flowing beauty that winds from Pittsburgh down through northern West Virginia. Whether you’re on the hunt for a new route to explore in your kayak, or are simply looking for a road-less-traveled kind of weekend getaway, paddling the Monongahela is a unique and satisfying adventure.
There are seemingly endless stop offs along the river, but here are some of the best, from research-filled arboretums to city centers and state parks. Now all you've gotta do is get on the water!
1. Prickett’s Fort State Park
This state park is a recreated—you guessed it—historic log fort from 1774. Relive 18th-century life through historical reenactments of blacksmithing, wool spinning and more. Prickett’s Fort is a day-use recreation area with picnic areas and hiking trails, and you can rent bikes there, too, if you want to zoom around for a few hours. Plus, the park is very family-friendly if you have little ones along for the ride.
2. Seneca Center
The historic Seneca Center shopping mall, which used to be a glass factory, still has its original wood floors, exposed brick walls and manufacturing equipment, and it’s right off the river in Morgantown. If along the way you forgot some key supplies or your stomach is growling for a meal that doesn’t require a campfire, Seneca Center is an ideal place to fill your belly and load up on supplies. You’ll find everything from a tea shop to a spa and a running store— anything you need (and more).
3. Mon River Trails
The Mon River Trail system gives you access to 4 major trails that collectively span almost 50 miles: Mon River Trail North and Mon River Trail South, Caperton Trail and Deckers Creek Trail. These routes take you through meadowland, forests and farmland, as well as more developed areas with shopping centers and lively downtowns. Whether you’re a runner, hiker, skateboarder or mountain biker, there is a trail along the Mon River for you.
4. Downtown Morgantown
With a population of just over 26,000 people, Morgantown has that classic small-town vibe that feels like something out of a Mark Twain novel. Downtown Morgantown has a slew of small businesses along its streets, including more than 30 options for dining and entertainment. Head to the Blue Moose for coffee, Apothecary Ale House & Cafe for good beer and Boston Beanery for grub if you’ve got kiddies in tow. The Wharf District, a revamped section of the city, is one of the best places to hit the road again and catch the Caperton Trail (mentioned above).
5. Core Arboretum
The Core Arboretum covers 91 acres, and is free and open to the public every day. The best time to go is from late March to early May, when the wildflowers are in full bloom. The arboretum has a nice selection of well-kept trails, too, so you have a few options for getting in a workout.
Since it’s owned by West Virginia University, the arboretum is a popular spot for local students to conduct research. And who knows? You might learn a thing or two before getting back out on the water.
6. Cheat Lake
The Cheat Lake Reservoir, a manmade result of the Cheat Lake Dam, sits on the border with Pennsylvania. Pass a warm summer day by staying cool in the water, or hike the Cheat Lake Trail, a 4.5-mile route that passes a beach and a playground—a must if you’ve got kids (or kids-at-heart) along for the adventure.